This $40 Piece of Equipment Will Replace Your Gym Membership

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Historically, I am not good at working out—it’s like a skill I don’t possess. I’ve always joked that I don’t get endorphins (or, as we now know, endocannabinoids) from exercise. Hiking, my one true love, is the only “workout” I do consistently. Even things I really emjoy, like rock climbing and yoga, just don’t seem to keep me in a rhythm for more than a few weeks.

Then the pandemic hit and my long weekend hikes started to become a struggle. Turns out being at home all day, every day, seriously plummeted my daily movement (who knew?!), which in turn affects fitness. So I started an at-home strength-training routine in early January, and to my great surprise, I’ve stuck with it. It turns out I really enjoy the feeling of lifting weights and, after a few weeks, I started to think of my workouts as a natural part of my day. To be clear: If going to a gym were a part of this, I wouldn’t do it. I tried that back in the summer and lasted two weeks. So a reliable at-home set-up has been crucial.

RELATED: The Runner’s Guide to Building a Better Home Gym

Weights became a hot-ticket item during the pandemic, backordered and hard to find or way overpriced. I already had some really light dumbbells, but building out a basic home gym proved to be a lesson in patience. I ordered heavier weights and a kettle bell that took weeks to arrive (luckily, body weight exercises are effective, especially early in anyone’s strength journey).

Weighted hip thrusts became a hilarious (and precarious) balancing of two 15-pound dumbbells on top of a 10-pound yoga sand bag. So when my Facebook groups started sharing this Walmart barbell set, it seemed too good to be true: 100 pounds of weights, plus a barbell, for $40? Yeah right. (For reference, pre-COVID, weights came in at about $1.50 per pound. In some places, that’s since doubled.)

Walmart Barbell Set Review

black walmart barbell set

But lots and lots of women in these groups were singing its praises, so I decided to pull the trigger. There was a catch, though. Walmart sells it, and it’s on the website, but you can’t have it shipped to your house. You have to be lucky enough to catch it when it’s in-stock nearby. It took a couple of days checking the link, but soon I could order it for local pickup. In a few hours, it was ready to take home.

The bar weighs about 5 pounds and it has sets of 10, 15, and 25 sand-filled plates. It was easy to put together, loading weight onto is simple, and it doesn’t take up a lot of space. But it’s not really a “nice” set, and the middle pin keeps coming out even when I hammer it in with the heel of a shoe (for what it’s worth, that doesn’t seem to affect functionality at all; other people report using Gorilla Glue and duct tape to secure it). The grip is good and doesn’t slip. And for my newbie purposes, the set is perfect. It’s allowed me to focus on form for deadlifts, lift heavier on overhead presses, and not rely on dangerous stacking for those weighted hip thrusts. It does have its limitations, even for me: without any plates less than 10 pounds, progressive overload isn’t always achievable and I have to use dumbbells: For some pulse squats I did last week, I wanted to push from 25 pounds to 35, going up to 30 in between. Those reps of 30 I had to do with two 15-pound dumbbells because the barbell set can’t hit that exact weight.

RELATED: See our guide to strength training for trail runners. 

For someone who’s already lifting heavy, it won’t cut it. But until I’m able to go beyond 50 pounds for any move (which, honestly, at this point sounds like a pipe dream), it’s much better for my needs than a $300 Olympic set. Though, if I can keep working out consistently (who am I?), that’s what I’ll need to invest in.

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